First blood test to diagnose patients with fibromyalgia

Dr. Kevin Hackshaw. (Credit: Ohio State University)
Dr. Kevin Hackshaw. (Credit: Ohio State University)

After experiencing unexplained, full-body pain, doctors diagnosed Barb Hartong with fibromyalgia.

“It was almost a relief because I finally knew what was wrong with me,” Hartong said.

Experts estimate about 75 percent of cases are undiagnosed while others live with pain for years, often getting treatment that does not work. There are at least four million Americans suffering with the daily pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia.

“Many of the patients with chronic opiate use turn out to have underlying fibromyalgia,” Dr. Kevin Hackshaw said. “So in fact, if that was recognized then we could realize that we can stem the tide of treating them inappropriately with opiates.”

For the first time, researchers at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have developed a potential test to diagnose fibromyalgia. Dr. Hackshaw led the study in a collaboration between Rheumatologists and Ohio State’s Food Science Laboratory.

The team used infrared in many companies to determine protein, fat, moisture, starch levels, fiber in seconds. The test can analyze levels of chemicals in the blood and distinguish fibromyalgia from other chronic pain conditions with near 100 percent accuracy.

As they analyze, brown color squares belong to fibromyalgia while the red is rheumatoid arthritis and the green are lupus.

“A test like this provides confirmation and validation of the symptoms they’ve been suffering for years,” Dr. Hackshaw said.

“It’s not just giving me a pill,” Hartong said. “It’s how do I live.”

Researchers are now working to study the blood test in a larger group of patients in hopes of one day taking it out of the lab and into the exam room.

For Hartong, it means managing her fibromyalgia with a daily routine that works for her and eases the pain.

“For me, it’s exercise,” Hartong said.

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